Boots Opticians: A Disappointing Customer Experience


Share on LinkedIn

I get a letter

I got a letter through the post informing me that I was due for an eye test. Given that it has been several years since I had my eyes tested I welcomed the colourful reminder from Boots. I noticed that I could book an appointment online or by calling. At that moment I did not have a laptop handy so I chose to call. My call was picked up almost immediately and a helpful chap booked an appointment for me at the local Boots (Opticians) store.

How am I feeling? Happy. What kind of impression do I have of Boots? This is an organisation that has its act together: it has sent me a useful reminder, it has offered me several options, it has made it easy for me to book an appointment, and the fellow on the phone exuded human warmth.

I turn up at the store for an eye test

Several days later I turned up at the local Boots Opticians store. The store looks spacious and clean – I notice the whiteness of the store and I wonder if Boots is ‘stealing’ from the Apple retail stores. Walking up to the woman at the counter, I smile, I give my name and let her know I am there for an eye test. This is an opportunity for her to show up as a human being. She declines. In her best robotic voice, she tells me to take a seat.

Looking around the various stands housing the spectacles, I notice four seats in line. Two seats are occupied, two are free. As I approach the seats I notice that one of the seats is dirty – obviously dirty. The dirtiness of seat clashes with the sparkling whiteness of the store. And I notice that the seats (for customers) look crammed in comparison with the spaciousness of the rest of the store.

What does this tell me? It tells me that the star of the show at Boots Opticians is the product: the range of spectacles. How am I left feeling? Disappointed. Unwanted. What am I thinking? I wonder what the rest of the experience is going to be like.

The eye test happens

Shortly, and on time, a professional looking man comes out from the ‘back’ of the store, calls my name, and asks me to follow him. He shows me into a ‘tiny area’ which houses three machines. At one of the machines, a member of staff is testing a customer. I am handed over to a young woman. She proceeds to conduct an eye test. Whilst another member of staff takes my glasses to get those tested.

What am I thinking? I am asking myself how it is that there is so much space in the front for the spectacles and so little space at the back for conducting eye tests on customers. And I am asking myself if a lack of ‘human warmth’ goes with the opticians and/or the Boots brand. I am clear that for the staff, I show up as a ‘widget’ to be processed and not as a ‘flesh and blood’ human being.

Thankfully, the eye test does not take that long and the professional looking man is back. He asks me to follow him and walks me to a room that occurs as positively spacious-luxurious. Over the course of the next 10 – 20 minutes he proceeds to test my vision by inserting different lenses into the spectacles he has placed on my nose. His manner is professional. He shows up as knowing what he is doing.

At the end of the testing he tells me that my short-sightedness is slightly worse. And that I have started to become long-sighted too. He tells me that I can either have two pairs of spectacles – one for short sightedness and one for reading. Or I can go for one pair of spectacles that will cater for both needs. He suggests that I go for the single bifocal pair of spectacles. He then hands me over to another member of staff.

I walk out without buying spectacles

The new member of staff, a good looking lady with a smile, is keen to take me to the front of the store to pick spectacles. I decline. Instead I ask for my prescription, receive the prescription, make my way to the robotic lady on the counter, pay and leave.

Why did I not buy? I did not buy because I did not feel valued. I did not buy because it did not occur to me that I was consulted on my needs. I did not buy because it occurred to me that the focus of the staff in the store was to sell me spectacles. I did not buy because the people in the store and the experience lacked any semblance of humanity. Put plainly, I was looking for an ‘I-Thou’ relationship and what I got was an ‘I-It’ relationship – I was the ‘It’.

I look forward to the day, that an ‘Amazon’ like competitor puts the likes of Boots Opticians out of business.

Worth remembering

Investments in CRM (including database marketing) are not likely to yield the desired results if the customer experience sucks! To generate ROI from CRM investments you have to pay attention to the customer experience.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


  1. …removed from the customer experience. You’d think, that with a company as savvy as Boots, there would be more emotional engagement and more of an attempt to create personal value. Like so many organizations, and so many experiences, there is too little understanding and consideration of customer needs, especially where emotions and aesthetics are concerned:

    P.S.: Maz, you’d like our optician, Philadelphia Eyeglass Labs ( We’ve been going to them for years, and always had a first-rate experience.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here